Spelling Test: Watch The Spelling On Websites Or You Can Get An “F” For Fraud

When going to websites, it’s important to check the spelling of the address.  Unfortunately, Spell Check can’t help you, but making sure you have the right spelling can save you from getting a costly F for fraud.  When you misspell a URL address, you can be taken to a fraudulent website that looks exactly like the website you planned to visit. You then share your personal information with more than just your computer.

This crime is called typosquatting or URL hijacking and relies on spelling mistakes.  There are thousands of fraudulent websites out there willing to take your personal information and they look exactly like the real website to make this crime even harder to spot.

Here are a few examples of fraudulent websites found:

  • Fake domain: Wallmatt.com; Real domain: Walmart.com
  • Fake domain: Appple.com; Real domain: Apple.com
  • Fake domain: Sportsdierct.com; Real domain: Sportsdirect.com

Typosquatting sites can also infect computers with viruses that disable systems and lead to computer crashes.  They can even affect a whole network of computers at a place of business.

Company Prevention

So what can a company do to prevent this?  Some companies have purchased domains that are similar and will reroute you to the correct URL.  For example, typing www.gogle.com will take you to www.google.com.

Beware because companies cannot be aware of all the various misspellings of their website.  Some typosquatters will even change .com to .net and still have the correct spelling of the company name.

Another Type Of Typosquatting

Another common attack involves phishing schemes.  Consumers are offered online deals, coupons or free merchandise and are taken to a phony domain, which appears to be the real company.

How To Protect Yourself

These steps can help protect you from typosquatting and phishing to take you to a fake site.

  • Always be careful when visiting your financial institution website. There will most likely be a lock icon and a display of the registered company that owns the website.
  • If you are checking a URL from an email, hover over the link and see if it is encrypted (https:// vs just http://). If you are unsure, always type in the link yourself and do not click on a link.
  • Always type slowly when entering URLs and double check spellings.
  • Save your financial institution websites as Favorites when you verified they are correct.
  • Review site to see if anything looks different. Typosquatting sites typically display low-resolution images because the sites are built quickly.  If the logo or text is blurry or a poor resolution, this is a big clue that you are on a fake site.
  • Always monitor your accounts to see if anything seems looks funny or suspicious. This is one of the best ways to keep you safe from any kind of fraud.
  • Never give your bank account information from an email. Your bank would never ask for that or a PIN over their website.
  • Misspelled words are another indicator of a fake website. Check your spelling on the site as well as the URL.
  • Ignore messages that do not have an image or are all an image. Most companies’ emails will have both, and you will recognize the look.
  • Never open an attachment in an email if you are not expecting one. High-risk attachments include file types with endings of .exe, .scr, .zip, .com and .bat.
  • Be leery of phone numbers that pop up on a website for you to call. These numbers can charge you large amounts of money quickly.  Most legit company websites will not have numbers pop up without you searching for contact information.
  • Enable safe browsing mode in your web browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome all have features that block access suspicious pages that contain potential malware or virus. If the site you typed in is malicious, the browser will stop you before you do harm.
  • As with any other protection, be sure your security software is updated. Your antivirus software will most likely detect any danger for a fraudulent page before anything malicious is downloaded. 

A great deal of safety can be common sense, but take your time before giving out any personal information.  Be sure you typed the URL correctly.  As your grade school teacher taught you, spelling is always important.  Good spelling can save your identity and your money.

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